Canada’s member of Team Panam Sports, Maggie Mac Neil, has equaled the record of U.S. swimmer Cynthia Woodhead for the most gold medals at the Pan American Games while also becoming the female swimmer with the second-most medals in a single edition of the Games.

At the age of 23, with the gold she won today in the 4×100 medley relay, Maggie Mac Neil has become one of the standout figures, not just at Santiago 2023, but in the history of the Pan American Games. Her 7 medals in the most important multi-sport event on the continent put her on par with the greatest swimming legends.

If she continues to compete at this level in future Pan American Games, she could equal or surpass Canada’s Joann Malar, who, with 19 medals, holds the record for the most podium appearances by a female swimmer in the history of the event. Another legendary swimmer that Maggie might aim to surpass is Brazil’s Thiago Pereira, who earned 23 medals across 4 Pan American Games. He achieved this record over the editions of Santo Domingo 2003, Rio 2007, Guadalajara 2011, and Toronto 2015, earning the nickname “Mr. Pan.”

With her fifth gold medal, Maggie Mac Neil is just one medal shy of the record set by Brazil’s Thiago Pereira, who secured 6 golds across two consecutive editions, Rio 2007 and Guadalajara 2011. Mac Neil has also achieved the same number of golds as the legendary US swimmer Mark Spitz, the multi-Olympic champion who won 5 gold medals in the Pan American Games in Winnipeg 1967, clinching first place in all of his events.

Maggie Mac Neil has matched another swimming legend in the women’s events, Cynthia Woodhead, who earned 5 gold medals for the United States in the 1979 Pan American Games in San Juan. Woodhead accomplished the same feat as Mark Spitz, winning gold in every event she entered, including the 100m, 200m, and 400m freestyle, as well as the 4x100m freestyle and 4x100m medley relays.

At Santiago 2023, Maggie Mac Neil has written her own legend. In addition to claiming 5 gold medals in the 50m and 100m freestyle, 100m butterfly, and the 4x100m freestyle and 4x100m medley relays, she added a silver and a bronze in the mixed 4x100m medley and freestyle relays, respectively.

Her incredible total of 7 medals leaves her just one behind another Pan American Games historic figure, Silvia Poll of Costa Rica. Poll set an almost unbeatable mark when she won a record 8 medals in the 1987 Pan American Games in Indianapolis, including 4 golds.

With these achievements, having competed in 7 different events, Maggie Mac Neil has earned a medal in each of the finals she has participated in. Her performance can now be considered one of the best in the history of swimming and the Pan American Games.

By Alfredo Albornoz

Team Panam Sports Ambassador Maggie Mac Neil (CAN) with a gold medal, a familiar sight at Santiago 2023.